Bowers Says Beaches are Safe After Kent County Wastewater Issue - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Bowers Says Beaches are Safe After Kent County Wastewater Issue

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BOWERS BEACH, Del. -- Officials in Bowers Beach on Monday afternoon said the town's water is safe after they initially told people not to go swimming there after a wastewater treatment facility in Kent County recently discharged under-treated effluent into the Murderkill River.

Bowers Councilman Bob McDevitt said he installed signs telling people not to swim in the water because of the discharge of under-treated wastewater that prompted a recreational shellfish harvesting ban in the Delaware Bay north of the Mispillion inlet. The signs were removed last week after officials from Kent County told Bowers leaders that the bacteria count in the area around the town's beaches were acceptable.

Earlier this month, Delaware Environmental Secreatary Shawn Garvin ordered a 21-day ban on recreational shellfish harvesting, which impacts the harvest of bivalve molluscan shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels but does not affect the legal harvest of other shellfish species such as crabs and conchs. The ban was set to go into effect once the treatment issues at Kent County's facility were addressed and it will remain in effect until Aug. 14.

However, DNREC also advised in a news release on July 18 against "swimming in the affected area of Delaware Bay or other physical contact with the water."

"That's a red light for me," McDevitt said.

Bowers Vice-Mayor Patty Mabis said she was informed by Kent County's public works department that the bacteria levels in the water near the area surrounding the entrance to the Murderkill River were at acceptable levels, which meant people could swim in the water. 

It's not clear how much of the undertreated wastewater was discharged. The facility handles an estimated millions of gallons each day.

For some visitors to Bowers, the fact that the most recent wastewater problem had occurred was unsettling. Dave Udoff of Magnolia was worried about the scope of the issue, especially since he likes to bring his 9-year-old daughter and family to Bowers.

"As nice as the ocean beaches are further south, it's nice to come here and not deal with the crowds," he said.

It's not the first time shellfish harvesting has been affected this year by problems from Kent County's wastewater treatment system. A sewage line break in February near Postlethwait Middle School in Dover prompted David Small, then the state's environmental secretary, to order a similar closure of recreational shellfish harvesting in the Delaware Bay.

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